Davy O'List Live In London

Davy O'List party like it's 1967!

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It’s an inauspiciously sparse audience that Davy O’List and his band – keyboardist Robbie Knight, guitarist and backing singer Dan Bowles, bassist Jordan Brown and drummer and sometime Wishbone Ash member Dave Wagstaffe – are performing before tonight.

That’s the Davy O’List: guitarist extraordinaire, prime mover when it came to advancing the cause of prog with The Nice, touring buddy of Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett’s stand-in with Pink Floyd, occasional Jethro Tull-er, part of the early Roxy Music… So where is everybody? They should be here in their droves, worshipping at the altar of the ‘List’ component of Emerlist Davjack. Especially since he has been decent enough to turn up in a shiny yellow jacket and cool rock-star shades.

Still, small crowd or not, tonight O’List intends to party like it’s 1967 - via 2015, because the bulk of the set comprises last year’s album Second Thoughts, which he has described as a sequel of sorts to the groundbreaking The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack (although actually it was the follow-up to his solo debut, 1997’s Flight Of The Eagle).

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The title track of Second Thoughts starts proceedings in fine style, being an eight-minute opportunity for keyboard curlicues, decelerations and accelerations, and assorted guitar and synth noodling. The fact that only a smattering of people are here makes us feel like the chosen few. Some look as though they may well have been there to witness that legendary Nice/Hendrix/Move/Floyd package tour in real time - although to be honest, bassist Brown is so baby-faced he could be any one of the assembled’s grandson. Still, it occurs, the actual make‑up of the band reflects the generational appeal of prog.

To The Stars is very nice, while Anymore Than I Do is all three-chord boogie whose repetition has a mesmeric effect: at least one woman is dancing. One can only hope someone is standing by with smelling salts and/or oxygen.

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

It’s not all cosmic. You Son Of A Gun is earthbound space rock, if that’s not a contradiction in terms – it’s listless jamming by any other name, lacking in drama. A reworked Bonnie K nails the now-and-then feel of the gig (being on both The Thoughts… and the new album) and is prefaced by a brief, anticlimactic anecdote about a girl O’List met back in the day in the States: he really should stick to his day job.

There’s more yarn-spinning, this time about Ronnie Wood, ahead of the multipartite, 14-minute Halfway To Heaven, which plods as much as it is ascends and suggests there’s a greater distinction between progressive rock and prog than has ever been established. There’s even a section that taps into that pleasantly unsettling strain of English whimsy purveyed by The Soft Machine and early Floyd. The crowd – all three dozen of us – go wild.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.